Continuing to chop down the list of URR stuff to be checked before 0.8’s release! Here’s what has happened in the last couple of weeks:

– Resolved some strange issues with churches, especially if you approach them at night. Priests weren’t sure where to spawn or where to sleep, and random worshippers kept appearing off the map and finding no way to path in to the map, rather than being where they should be. I’m not entirely sure what the cause was – and, indeed, I feel this was working fine a while ago – but these strange behaviours have all now been fixed.
– Fixed a number of conversation options not working correctly when talking to nomadic speakers.
– Fixed a number of conversation options not working correctly when talking to speakers from tribal civilisations.
– Merchants were not always spawning correctly in their shops in town; this has been fixed.
– Merchants also could not always describe to the player what kind of product they sold – the problem was different for merchants in cities, towns, and fortresses, but all three kinds can now correctly tell you about their wares.
– When you insult or compliment someone several times, they no longer say you “asked me that” several times, but instead say “you told me that” (or some close equivalent).
– Asking about laws on violence has distinctive answers now for nomadic and hunter-gatherer civilisations, with particular kinds of concerns and laws relevant to them.
– Asking about laws on trade has different outcomes for nomadic and tribal civilisations.
– Asking about laws on religion has different outcomes for nomadic and tribal civilisations.
– Helmets do not appear correctly when you select someone who is wearing a helmet (no picture yet, but relevant text).
– Tribal people respond correctly to questions about money; all peoples respond correctly to religious questions, especially if they don’t have a specific religious belief; and NPCs correctly state when they aren’t wearing a necklace, rather than trying to tell the player about a necklace that doesn’t actually exist.
– Starting to ask an NPC stuff before saying hello will get them to say something like “Oh, hello there”, or “Oh, good morning”, before they give you the full response.
– All guards (there are at least twenty sorts of places a guard might guard) definitely now correctly talk about their respective charges correctly.
– Fixed obscure bug with some feudal NPCs being unable to remember the correct punishment for certain religious crimes.
– Resolved an equally obscure bug where game would sometimes choose “Monastery” as the word to describe the church of a certain culture (a la “Church”, or “Pagoda”, or “Priory”, etc), thereby potentially generating confusion with actual monasteries.
– Farmers no longer sometimes possess access to teleporters when they really, really, want to get to bed quickly.
– Fixed a number of issues with random NPCs in buildings (other than religious buildings) sometimes spawning at -1,-1, and therefore being unable to path or do anything.
– Fixed a problem with some church generation algorithms which didn’t produce interiors containing sufficient options for NPCs to always work out where to go.
– Improved the generation of insults, greetings, farewell and compliments by removing a number of weird grammatical mistakes (still more to do here).
– Fixed a strange bug where unseen NPCs very very rarely fail to complete their scheduled tasks at the right time in another part of the world map and instead crash the game – this is another where I don’t understand the cause, but it has definitely been resolved.

So, the list continues to shrink, and I’m now basically just checking out schedules and fixing bugs in the conversation system. I must say, though, that it is a little dispiriting that I keep encountering new bugs while trying to fix the old ones, but I take a lot of reassurance from the fact that the speech system has gone from “almost every possible question might lead to the game crashing” (a month ago) to “no question causes a crash, and just a handful of questions are still a bit inaccurate or strange in their responses” (now). Progress is continuing to happen at a pace I’m very comfortable and very pleased with, and I should have more to show in, again, some time later in April. I’ve been travelling a ton for work lately (week back in the UK, week in Sydney, and soon another week travelling in Canada), which has stretched this update out a little, but things are still moving at a nice speed. Thank you all for reading, and see you all soon!

25 Comments

  • I had a thing where this game popped into my head from a couple years ago and then had the thought “so that guy was a genius” and wanted to come download again and see if the project was dead but come to find out you just posted this update yesterday(today)!

    What you’ve already put out is incredibly thought provoking and I really appreciate you updating it when you almost shouldn’t considering it’s freeware. Don’t be afraid of changing that in the future! even if it’s not as all encompassing as your final vision, I’m sure there are plenty of people more than willing to pay 10-20 bones for this title polished and stable, and packed with so much procedural generated life they’ll have to make a spot for it next to Dwarf Fortress at the MoMa in a solar vault for the next 1000 years, where a traveler from an antique land can come by and study both in awe of their mysteries.

    Consider the stuff we can all find on Steam right now for 24.99 or more in perpetual early access and that is not near this level of experimentation and wonder. I mean straight up porn games, man! Or shoveled out schlock meant to rake in cheap sales that go to some guy with a Ferrari employing a dozen people who don’t have time to sleep or eat. No offense to anybody working in this beastly industry. But I feel like nobody could hate on you for justifying the time you spend working on something like this, especially if some of that financial justification helps you get things into this game that you want but couldn’t before, barred by time or whatever. But maybe I’m talking our of my butt. Just want to say I appreciate the project as it currently stands, regardless. Excited to see what comes of it in the future. Playing it at the moment I’m struck by how sad it feels. Perhaps it’s trite to reference but that old Percy Shelley poem really nails it. Civilizations in the sand, people’s lives forgotten save for whispers and hearsay years later. Something as simple as a quick text description of a religion or an ideology sparks the imagination and makes me think of what these things mean. I’m confident that more people will agree in the future as you do more with it. I always talk about it when I talk about Dwarf Fort. That game is like building sandcastles on a beach in Hawaii where a volcano is about to erupt behind you and the tide is about to wash in ahead of you, meanwhile you can play with your Warhammer figures on the castles while you wait for both. And all those figures are sentient like the toys from Small Soldiers. This game is like peacefully striding through someone else’s sand castle after they’ve passed away, meanwhile you’re listening to fading recordings of classical music and thinking about how everything you know will eventually be someone else’s forgotten history before it becomes simply nothing. I love it and I wish you all the best.

    • Hey – thank you so much for this incredibly kind message! It really means a ton to me. If I make future games with a more commercial bent, I’m sure I will chuck them on Steam and charge, but URR is definitely going to remain free forever. You are entirely right, though, that there is a truly amazing amount of absolute garbage flooding the market right now (indeed, some people are talking about the risk of another video games crash precisely because of the discoverability problem); I suppose that’s one of the reasons I want to keep things free, so I’m not competing for attention on other larger platforms.

      Also, I have to say: what you wrote about the current (i.e. the “empty”) version of the game is absolutely beautiful, and thank you so much for taking the time to write it out. The new version is a little more crowded, of course (!), but I hope it still maintains some of that “weight” and that detail of lives and places and history that you’re talking about.

      Anyway, yes, thanks SO much for this message. It’s great to have you here on the blog!

      • Updates looking great!

        Agreed. I think a main culprit of less then stellar games is the graphics race. I’ve come to think of it like the Red Queen Hypothesis. Where these AAA companies barely inch forward of each other each year in terms of graphics just to stay alive (Ok, now the sports guy’s arm hair will move with the breeze…).

        I’m hoping there will be a pivotal moment where a giant development studio will realize it can make a simpler looking game but with deeper mechanics (thinking Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, Caves of Qud, Factorio, etc). Except they can utilize that giant corporate machine to produce a much more content rich game experience with more power than any indie studio ever had. Imagine having an entire department dedicated to procedural generation, combined with another department generating massive amounts of 2d pixel graphics. I understand that it would be quite the risk for a company that might more typically produce the same game every year but I think it’s a better direction. Microsoft bought MC though so maybe we’ll be seeing more of that in the future.

        • Thank you BP! I agree entirely, there’s just a gulf between “visual quality” (i.e. style, aesthetics, art design) and “graphical fidelity” (i.e. polygons), but we so tend to conflate these two, and it’s very problematic.

          As for that pivotal moment, it would be interesting, wouldn’t it? I… I can see that happening at some point, and we do see some huge companies experimenting with things in these areas, albeit in small forms, e.g. the Chalice Dungeons in Bloodborne, Niflheim in the new God of War, etc. I’ve actually been slowing working on a little essay about “Procedural Content Generation in Blockbuster Games” which I’ll be posting here once done, where I want to ask some of those similar questions. How have big companies tackled these ideas, could they do better, will we ever see a triple-A PCG game, etc? But yes, thanks so much for the comment; and I’ll be watching out for that future blockbuster PCG game just as you are :).

  • Hey man !

    Glad you’re still active and your project runs well !

    Correcting bugs is a matter of patience and after that step you’ll feel that you have accomplished a lot !

    When you say “if 0.9 happens” is that because you’re not sure if you’re interrested to develop it or not, or is that because you took time between 0.7 and 0.8 and are affraid you won’t be able to develop it, even if you wish to do so ?

    Thanks for your hard work anyway, i’m not much interrested in videogames anymore, but this seems of another level : this is Art. Like DF is. Sorry for my english

    • Thank you Ashwolf! I am indeed still active and the project is zipping along now for the first time in years. It’s more not sure whether I want to; if I do, it’ll be 1/10th the size of 0.8 or even less, but I will need to take stock of where things stand and what I want to do once 0.8 is out. And finally wow, thank you so much for the final few lines! I really, really appreciate that so much.

  • How is this stage of Roguelike/RPG development? Sounds tough to me. To relate this to an even longer term project than yours – Dwarf Fortress – how difficult would it be, do you think, to manage this type of project for a decade? You have zero experience doing it that long, but I’m curious as to your projection of that undertaking. Several times a year Tarn and Zach Adams come out and take part in press activities and release oodles of updates or larger projects, recently just announcing a Steam push for their game to make additional income for health reasons.

    • I wouldn’t say I have zero experience – I have been doing this eight years, so I have 80% of the experience of managing a project for a decade! This is a tough stage, but far less tough than a year ago: I’m moving fast, making good progress, and feeling excited about continuing/concluding the game for the first time in rather a long time. The biggest issue was just the size of the 0.8 release, as I didn’t want to have NPCs you couldn’t talk to wandering around the world, but the combination of NPC schedules, AND conversations, was just titanic. I’ll never again do a release this big, though, so I think that’s the big thing I’ve learned.

      • Haha, I was operating under a binary of 10 or not 10, my apologies, I know you’ve been doing this for a long time 😛

        I do have a few questions regarding marketing surrounding this free game. A long time ago, Caves of Qud was a wholly free game and like URR, it was a prettier roguelike than most. Interestingly, it eventually had a Steam release after about 8 or so years after its first functional release (I don’t know the playability of the initial release…). At some point, CoQ started using prettier and prettier design and then they gave its web presence a nice upgrade.

        I’m wondering if you’ve thought of paying for some graphic design and marketing materials at some point. Not that I’m insinuating you make the game pay-to-play or vice versa, just wondering if you’ve thought about upgrading its out-of-application aesthetics a bit. Maybe eventually make a pretty in-or-out-of-game manual, or a cool themed URR website and logo.

  • Something’ve been bothering me for all these years I wait for 0,8.What about gameplay? Battle system, etc. Or is it just a world simulation at that stage?

    • 0.8 is the first gameplay-focused release, as you can talk to everyone (potentially millions or more NPC permutations) and learn a ton about the world, and about other people; but after that, we’ll have to see where things go :).

  • Do you think there’s any chance you might one day write a book teaching the programming mechanics behind how to create such complex world simulations? I really enjoyed your chapters from “Procedural Generation in Game Design” and I’d definitely by a whole book of yours describing further theory and algorithms and so forth. There are plenty of Perlin terrain tutorials around, for example, but I’ve seen very little material available as far as showing how to layer simulation systems together in the way that URR and DF do, and I think there’d be a real niche market there for a book or course to show the way.

    • Hey! I have honestly thought about writing a book just called “Qualitative Procedural Generation” looking at precisely these kinds of ideas. A few years ago I actually got pretty close to submitting a proposal for something like this to an academic press, but then things happened, life got in the way, blah blah, and the project faded from my mind. But I’m still very open to doing so in the future and I will definitely be considering it. And thank you!! I’m so glad you enjoyed those chapter,s and it’s so nice of you to say you’d read a whole book of that stuff :). It would (as you allude to) be a very theory-driven book, although I would also talk through algorithms in a broad sense or a pseudo-code sense like I did in those chapters; it’s the layering and connecting of simulations which I think is the really important and interesting thing. So yes, thanks so much for this! I will definitely look again at this, as a potential book project, in the future.

  • Mark I can’t tell you how excited I am to see these last few progress updates. I’ve been periodically checking in on URR for a few years now and I’m always amazed at what you have put together. I began to fear the project was dead when you moved websites and life seemed to get much busier for you. I’m glad to see I was wrong and that you’ve had time to come back to what is so clearly a passion project for you. Plus the rest of us get to see more of your awesome stuff. The idea of wondering around a procedural world and talking to folks and discovering things is super exciting.

    If you ever do an 0.9 release I will look forward to that as well, but thanks so much for all the hard work you’ve already put in!

    • Aw, thank you Drakythe! Thanks so much for the kind words. Even when I wasn’t coding, the project was much more “in stasis” than dead, but I recognise it’s a minor distinction to those watching its development ;). Yeah, life got a lot busier in terms of work, and given how difficult it is to make the jump from postdoc to permanent faculty (only 10% of postdocs make that jump), I just had to put everything into that objective. But now that looks like it has been successful – and in general I’m in a better place mentally, emotionally, etc – that I can really come back and get 0.8 done, and out, and finished. And you’re very welcome, and thank you so much for the message!

  • Great work as usual Dr. Mark.
    Really looking forward for this update (for a while now, but I must say it’s absolutely understandable – I’m really proud of your achievements in these past few years!), and for more of your works!

    Your work on URR has inspired me to develop a game myself. Even though it is a pet project and more of a hobby than anything else, I’ve been really passionate about working on it for the past few months (parallel to my bachelor’s degree progress and an internship).
    Hopefully someday I get to have a finished piece of interactive entertainment to release to the public!

    • Hey Anderson! Thank you so much for the message and the kind words :). I appreciate them a ton. And that’s awesome that it has inspired you into making a game! I wish you the very best of luck with it – do keep me updated!

  • Hey Mark, long time no see. I’m happy that i’ve been watching the progress of this update, and it’s finnaly about to pay off ^^ How not to love this project 😀

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